Unseen behind the canvas that divided the tent, Isabella sat, straining her ears. Her heart was pounding in her chest, and her hands were sweating. Over the last three days, while the tribunal was being prepared and the bishops gathered, she had inclined more and more to her mother’s advice. She had increasingly come to believe she must accept her destiny as Queen. The sound of Humphrey’s beloved voice and his description of their joint childhood, however, had shattered her resolve. How could she sacrifice Humphrey for a crown? Not just for a crown, but for something as abstract as Jerusalem? It wasn’t as if the Kingdom were rich and powerful. It hardly existed at all. Should she give up the man she loved for a dream? A hope?
But the silence on the other side of the canvas wall was killing her. “Fight for me!” she pleaded silently with her husband. “Humphrey, please! Fight for me!”
Humphrey looked at his challenger, and he knew he didn’t have a chance of winning. Henri was much more skilled at arms. He was bigger and stronger. Only God could give him a victory over such a challenger, and why should God do that? When had God ever been on his side?
“My lord of Toron,” the Archbishop of Pisa spoke up in a firm but almost gentle voice. “This knight has challenged you to judicial combat to prove that Isabella of Jerusalem did indeed consent to her marriage. Do you accept the challenge?”
Isabella held her breath and pressed her hands together. “Humphrey!” she begged more intently than ever before, “if you love me—as you love—take it up. Please! God is on our side! God knows I do love you! God knows I wanted you then as now!”
But the silence from the other side of the canvas was deafening. It was all Isabella could do to stifle her sobs as tears flooded down her face. She clutched at the edge of her chair in desperate misery.
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